So it’s been a while since my last Extratime.ie column and so much action has happened in the sporting world. The Euros have come and gone - where Spain not so surprisingly clinched their 3rd major tournament in a row. Another Britain has failed to win a Wimbledon title but did manage to win the Tour de France thanks to Bradley Wiggins.
Elsewhere, David Haye overcame his horrific toe injury to put himself back into contention to get another ass whooping from a Klitschko brother. Dublin won the GAA Leinster Senior Footballing title. And last but not least, I survived a near fatal neck injury that almost brought my footballing career to an abrupt end.
Reflecting back over what happened on that fateful day in our home stadium of Tehtis makes me realise how lucky I am to be able to walk again, let alone play football. In my last column I was detailing how we were due to play against HJK, the champions of Finland that has produced such footballing legends such as Jari Litmanen and how excited I was to be pitting my wits against the elite players of the Veikkausliiga.
We had started the game well but were 1-0 down after a sloppy goal. We responded well and took the game to HJK.
That’s when it happened.
A long kick from our goalkeeper and a looped headed clearance from the HJK defence sent the ball ascending high into the sky. The ball was heading towards my direction and as I saw a HJK opponent in front of me I knew I had to attack the ball hard. Unfortunately as I attacked the ball and hit the air at high speed the opposition player (very cowardly to say the least) decided to stay grounded and lean back into me.
This sent me flying over his shoulders and I landed neck first onto the ground after falling violently backwards. Below is a video (2.02 minutes in) of the moment I was hurtling in mid-air and about to land neck first. It’s not one for the squeamish!
The second I landed I knew I was in serious trouble. My team mates rushed over to see how I was but i couldn’t move my neck or my upper body at all. I could also tell by the crowd’s reaction that it was a very bad situation indeed. Cue myself being stretchered off on a spinal board in a neck brace, put on a drip and taken to Tampere Hospital which was a 30 minute drive from the stadium.
As I continuously asked the medics if I was going to be ok and if this was the end of my career. They told me they would have to do an X-ray to see if I had broken my neck! Obviously that wasn’t the answer I was hoping for so from then on it was a waiting game.
I had to wait 4 hours before my X-Ray and then another four hours for my results, all the time being restricted to no movement whatsoever from my upper body and you can imagine how excruciatingly frustrated I was becoming on the bed.
I had previously said that I be would returning home two weeks after the HJK game for the first time since January so the thoughts of seeing my nieces Holly, Kayleigh and Krystal, my God son Lucas and God Daughter Lisa, along with my family and friends were keeping me stay positive. A lot of prayers were sent to the big man upstairs also and thankfully, when the results came back in, they seemed to be answered.
The doctor’s diagnosis was that I had seriously damaged ligaments all across my neck and back but I was a very lucky boy not to be paralysed. So nine hours later I arrived home in my apartment knowing all too well that things could have been so different. Luckily there was going to be a mid-season break coming up so I only missed three games whilst I recovered from my neck injury.
Since the break I have started in every game and we are currently sitting 9th position in the league. However with the league being so tight, a few wins could propel us into a European position.
I think that it is very ironic that my latest column comes directly after playing against HJK as we travelled to play them in a televised game last Saturday in the amazing Sonera Stadium. I’m happy to say I’ve put that awful experience behind me after successfully getting through Saturday’s game without injury so I can now look forward to future meetings with HJK without trepidation or fear that they are a bogey team for me. Although they beat us 1-0 on both occasions so maybe they are!
It was also an interesting time to play against HJK because during the week they thrashed the champions of Iceland 7-0 in a Champions League Qualifying game. So with St Pat’s narrowly only beating the second placed Icelandic team IBV in the Europa League I was intrigued to see how we were going to fare out .We had 15 shots on goal and gave away a sloppy goal once again so it was very disheartening not to at least get a point from the game.
This week my former side St Pat’s take on Bosnian side NK Siroki Brijeg in the 2nd Round Europa League Qualifier at Richmond Park. Having watched the 1st leg in Bosnia from an online live stream
I’m confident that Pat’s can progress through the next round having dominated the game from start to finish.
Although cruelly conceding an undeserved equaliser in the closing seconds to make the scores 1-1, I think St Pat’s will have too much class for their Bosnian counterparts. Particularly in Richmond Park which is a fortress with amazing fans who make for such an intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams.
Pat’s have a lot of players in their squad with European experience under their belt with the likes of Captain Ger O Brien, who has been sensational all season leading the troops. And with Hannover 96 awaiting the winners in the next round, I will be surprised if the Super Saints aren’t boarding the plane for Germany in the coming weeks.
I’d like to wish the team all the best of luck, along with Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers who also have European games this week and hopefully all three teams progress in their respective European competitions.
Finally I’d like to give this column’s #ShaneysShoutout to my younger brother Karl who recently signed for Cherry Orchard’s Senior Saturday side and notched on his debut against Ballymun United in a 2-0 pre-season friendly win. With CherryOrchards Senior Sunday side recently drawn against Shelbourne in the FAI Cup nothing would make me prouder than to see him progress rapidly into the Sunday Side and feature at Tolka Park. He is certainly well capable of doing so.
Certainly my next column won’t be as long in coming and in my next column shall detail how I got on attending my first Finnish Play which was an eye opener to say the least!
Until then I’m very thankful that I’m able to even write this column for this excellent website and to play the game that I love for a living.
See you soon!